Sometimes, the URL of our blog page change even if we did not mean to do it. This normally happens if we decide to change the title of the blog post once it has already been published.
So, what happens is that a search engine like Google has two records of a URL that point to the same page. On some occasions, Google will think that the other URL is a duplicate.
And you do not want this to happen.
Today, I will discuss what you have to know about URL canonicalization. I will also give you steps on how to use canonical tags on your website.
What is a canonical URL?
To understand the canonical URL, take a look at these two URLs:
Both of these URLs go to the same page. The first long URL is the original. The second one was the revised URL when the author shortened the URL for SEO purposes.
In Google’s eyes, one of these two is a duplicate. As such, Google will not show the other anymore to users. As you know, Google does not like duplicate content.
But wait, the author and page and blog are the same. It is just that the author changed the title in WordPress, and this is why the URL also changed.
It is in this case where you have to tell the search engine that one is a canonical one. Cannon means it is the original version, and the other versions are not copies or duplicates, but new versions.
What is a canonical tag?
A canonical tag is a code that you write inside your website. It tells Google that the URL is canonical. What this does is it makes Google realize that none is a copy, but rather a new version.
The canonical tag is “rel.” It tells Google and other search engines that it is the master copy of the same page. If you use the canonical tag, you are preventing a major SEO issue—the issue of duplicate content.
The problem with duplicate content is that Google may get confused and even think that both URLs are duplicates. As such, Google will not rank that URL for any keyword at all. Another thing that a canonical URL does is it tells Google which version of the URL you want to show.
Digging deeper on duplicates
According to Google, it is possible that you have a single page that has multiple URLs. This I have explained earlier. In some cases, you may have several pages that have the same or similar content. For example, you may have a page for mobile, and you have the same page for desktop.
This results in duplicate URLs, and Google sees them as duplicate content on your domain. As we all know, Google hates duplicate content because it is spammy, and it does not add value to the user.
So, what will Google do? Google will consider one URL to be canonical, and this canonical URL will be crawled more often than the other one.
Now, it is at this point that I want to tell you that if you do not choose a canonical URL, it is Google that will make this choice for you. This may seem like the problem is fixed. However, some problems may occur later on.
Sometimes, Google will place two equal weights between the two URLs. If this happens, Google is going to crawl both pages. And if Google does this, you are wasting your crawl budget.
Reasons why the canonical URL is important
Now, let me show you the different reasons why a canonical URL is important.
- Specify a particular URL – use canonical tags to tell Google what specific URL you want people to see in the results. For example, you may find two URLs like this:
URL 1: https://justkeepshippin.com/2020/01/04/12-best-print-on-demand-shopify-apps-for-dropshippers/
URL 2: https://justkeepshippin.com/2020/01/04/best-shopify-apps/
As you can see, the URLs tell the user a different meaning. If it were up to me, I would choose the first one as canonical because it tells the user what the content is about.
- Link consolidation – it is easier for Google to consolidate links for the same pages. In our example earlier, Google will know that the links from other sites to URL 2 pertains to the same page as to URL 1. Google will now redirect all links to URL 2 to URL 1.
- Simplify tracking – a good website management practice is to check how much traffic goes to a web page, and then work your actions from there. If you have two URLs, you will see two versions of traffic to the same page in Google Search Console. If you chose URL 1 as canonical, Google would report all traffic in URL 2 in your URL 1.
As discussed earlier, you will also prevent wastage of the crawl budget. If you have not heard about it, Google has a crawl budget for each domain. The budget refers to the number of pages that Google is going to crawl on your website.
The more budget you have, the more pages will be crawled. If your website is full of duplicate URLs, then Google is going to spend the budget crawling these URLs when it could have crawled other independent pages.
How to Use Canonical Tags on Your Website
The manual way of change your post URL into being canonical is to go to your website’s code and add a “rel” function or command.
In our example, it will look like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://justkeepshippin.com/2020/09/15/make-money-online-with-e-commerce/” />
The thing is that this is really tough to do. What I strongly recommend is that you use a plugin called RankMath. It is a free plug-in that allows you to make a URL canonical.
Let us take a look at this example: https://justkeepshippin.com/2020/01/04/12-best-print-on-demand-shopify-apps-for-dropshippers/
Here, what you have to do is to log-in to your WordPress dashboard, and then edit the post. If you have Rank Math, you only have to click the RankMath button > Advanced > Canonical URL.
Here is a screenshot:
From here, all you have to do is to type the URL that you want to be canonical. Once you do this, save the post or click on update. From now on, Google will use this as a canonical URL and will crawl this more often.
I do not recommend doing the manual way. Most bloggers are not tech-savvy, and the last thing that you want to happen is to alter a code on your site. If you do, you will have more problems later, and your site can even crash.
URL canonicalization is an important aspect of website management. What you want is a website that is coherent, not only for users but for search engines, too.
The issue with URL canonicalization is that it is difficult to do if you do not know how to code. What you can do is to audit your site manually, or use plug-ins that can do this for you.
What I recommend is using Google Search Console. Just download your page views, and then you can sort all the URLs that Google has indexed you for. Use plug-ins to change the URL into a canonical one. You can do this with applications like Moz and Yoast.
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